Sport

Carlisle 1 Accrington Stanley 0: League 2 report

Reds rue lack of fluency in attack as their four-match unbeaten run comes to an end

John O'Sullivan cuts the ball back for Stanley under pressure from Carlisle's Danny Grainger(Image: kipax.com)

IT seems these days Carlisle’s infamous pre-match tradition doesn’t stop at placing Olga the stuffed fox on the centre-spot.

Their mascot, also a fox named Olga, even attempted to do some body-popping before Saturday’s game.

And the Reds’ boss John Coleman wished his forwards were as sprightly when they took to the field.

John O’Sullivan aside, Stanley’s attacking players let themselves down, frequently giving the ball away cheaply after the Reds had worked hard to play themselves into the final third.

That allowed the hosts to counter-attack – and they did so with pace and purpose, claiming a 21st-minute opener through Derek Asamoah.

The Cumbrians might have made the victory more emphatic while Stanley just didn’t test home keeper Dan Hanford enough. Sean Maguire’s second-half header was the only dangerous effort they had on target.

“We’ve got to be better attacking,” said Coleman. “The number of times we gave the ball away under no real pressure was alarming.

“Asamoah and Shay McCartan probably had as much of the ball as each other in the first half.

“But one had a massive effect on the game and the other one didn’t. I know Shay is capable of being as good as Asamoah but today he wasn’t.

“I’m not blaming Shay for the defeat but that’s a typical example of how the game went.”

Asamoah joined Carlisle on a short-term deal last month to get himself fit following a spell in South Korea. Having impressed off the bench, the former Ghana international was handed his first league start and proved a constant menace.

The ex-Northampton striker turned Carlisle youth product Tom Aldred before forcing an early save from Jack Rose and although the corner was cleared, Carlisle crossed the ball back in for centre-half Tom Anderson to head over.

Stanley began to enjoy some possession but Carlisle looked dangerous on the break, with Asamoah lurking on the last defender’s shoulder.

He sent a header wide from Courtney Meppen-Walter’s deep cross but the Stanley defence didn’t heed the warning signs.

Kal Naismith, one of four changes for Stanley, ran into a dead end and Carlisle swiftly found Billy Paynter in the centre circle. Aldred tried to play

Asamoah offside but the flag stayed down and the striker raced onto Paynter’s through-ball, steadying himself before tucking it into the bottom corner.

Stanley replied with Rob Atkinson heading over from O’Sullivan’s free-kick before O’Sullivan began to run left-back Danny Grainger ragged.

The on-loan Blackburn winger shrugged off a couple of challenges before trying his luck from 30 yards. The Carlisle fans held their breath as the net rippled before they realised the ball had gone just wide, hit the stanchion and rolled behind the goal.

O’Sullivan then found McCartan in the box but the striker fired wide under pressure from Grainger. The Carlisle captain might have been booked for a series of fouls, a point Coleman made on the touchline, earning him some flak from the home crowd.

Despite a well-timed run into the box by Carlisle’s Kyle Dempsey, he failed to control Grainger’s cross with the Stanley goal at his mercy.

The young midfielder then began to show why he’s being linked with Championship clubs as he started and ended a move which saw him fire wide from the edge of the box. He did the same just after half-time following a burst from midfield while McCartan sliced a shot well off target.

Asamoah dragged a shot wide as the Blues pushed for a second while winger Danny Kearns tested Rose from a tight angle and Matty Robson headed over from a cross by Carlisle substitute David Amoo.

Coleman brought on James Gray as the Reds aimed to get back in the game and the Stanley sub had a shot blocked before O’Sullivan’s chip into the box found the head of Maguire, whose close-range header was bundled wide by Hanford.

Shortly after, a Maguire run into the box was followed by a tame effort which trickled to the home keeper. Another sub, Lee Molyneux, saw a long-range free-kick deflected wide before blazing over from the resulting corner.

With Stanley throwing caution to the wind, Atkinson turned Robson’s cross just wide of his own goal before Rose kept out Steven Rigg’s shot.

Molyneux then curled a 20-yard free-kick well over while O’Sullivan cut in from the right with two minutes remaining, only to slice a 20-yard effort well wide.

The Reds were given some hope when the fourth official signalled five minutes of stoppage time but the hosts threatened to finish with a flourish as Rigg and Amoo were denied by Rose while Robson’s goalbound effort was blocked by Aldred.

Stanley: Rose 8, Hunt 6 (Liddle 62, 6), Aldred 7, Atkinson 7, Winnard 6, O'Sullivan 8, Joyce 7, Procter 7, Naismith 6 (Gray 60, 6), McCartan 6 (Molyneux 74, 6), Maguire 7. Subs: Carver, Hatfield, Windass, Simpson. Attendance: 4,069 (194 away)